Once again, thanks to Abhinav Jain for this guest review. This is part of his Advent Reviews series. You can find the details and schedule by clicking on this link.
Duane Swierczynski’s Birds of Prey is one of the better titles in DC Comics’ New 52 relaunch of its entire line-up. It has a fair few flaws around issues 10-12, but overall, the series has just been fantastic. As a fan of the Ashley Scott-starrer live action series from 2002, I was very excited to get into the series and read about the “old team” so to speak (the live action series is set several years after the “current” time period, when Batman and Catwoman’s daughter Helena Kyle is the Huntress, and a disabled Barbara Gordon aka Oracle works with her to keep Gotham safe).
There have been some excellent moments in the series, such as Dinah Lance/Black Canary and Evelyn/Starling teaming up with Barbara Gordon/Batgirl to take down some noted criminals early on, and their team-up with the “former” supervillain Poison Ivy; and later when they all bring in a new member, the sword-wielding Japanese heroine Katana. The team is built up superbly and their adventures are really fun to read about. The series exceeded my expectations admirably.
And then came the #0 prequel issue this September and I was completely blown away. I hold James Robinson’s Earth 2 #0 to be the best zero issue in New 52, among all the titles that I’m currently following and have got to that point. Duane’s Birds of Prey #0 comes very, very close to topping it, that’s how good it is.
The issue details how Black Canary, Batgirl and Starling meet: Oswald “Penguin” Cobblepot runs the Iceberg Lounge in Gotham Bay, a noted hotspot for the criminal underworld. Black Canary breaks in to get an audience with Cobblepot and get a job working security for him, all the while keeping watch for a rather dangerous and explosive deal to go down. Starling is already working there, and on the day of the deal, Batgirl drops in to break up the party. From then on, it’s a downright adventure.
Duane’s writing for this issue is just superb. It’s all told from Black Canary’s perspective and we get some good backstory on her motivations for being a vigilante, which was a great build-up from what’s been coming out in the rest of the series. We also get treated to some of Starling’s backstory, which was a downright surprise so to speak, particularly the last page of the comic, which has a very big revelation about her agenda in being with Cobblepot and, now, with Black Canary. Batgirl is a cameo in this, as is Starling, as Black Canary is the focus, which was entirely fine with me.
Romano Molenaar has pencil duty for this issue, the latest in the art changes for the series, which has gone through about three-four main artists so far. The constant flip-flops in the art-team are disconcerting, since it does not put forward a cohesive direction for the series. But I have to say that Molenaar is a great replacement for Jesus Saiz, who started off the series. I love how Molenaar draws all the characters, there are no heavy pencil shadings or shadows or hard edges to any of the characters. Smooth approach is the best approach. Vicente Cifuentes as inker and Chris Sotomayor as colorist have also done an awesome job here. The entire palette of soft blues and whites really work for the book, and bring out Molenaar’s panels perfectly.
Stanley “Artgem” Lau’s cover for the issue is also spectacular. It really gives you a good feel for what’s inside the comic and the colour contrasts between the heroines and the white and black of the background they are breaking out of is extremely dynamic. I wish the entire book had been drawn and coloured and inked the same way!
In short, this was an awesome issue and it sets up the whole team thing between Black Canary, Starling and Batgirl very well. An awesome job by Duane, Romano and Co.